Coming home to a dog chewing on his paws is enough to give yourself a little bit of pause. After the paw chewing comes nibbling on raw skin, raised hair, red eyes, and a tired mind.
Your dog's skin is his biggest and most exposed organ to the outside world. As such, there are a number of ways his skin can become irritated to the point of causing him discomfort or pain.
There are many reasons why your dog's skin may become irritated, from seasonal or food allergies to yeast and other bacterial infections.
It is important to regularly examine your dog's skin. Catching a skin issue early can save your pup discomfort and pain, as well as saving yourself stress, time, and money.
Yeast infections are an issue many humans deal with at some point in their life. Like bad breath, cancer, or an unhealthy gut, dogs are no exception to being able to contract a yeast infection.
Canines can be even more vulnerable than your average healthy human, due to the scourge of unhealthy dog food and their penchant to eat any dirt-laden dustball clinging to the floor. Treating yeast infections in dogs can be a long and arduous process, understanding why the fungal outbreak has presented itself is a major step in the right direction.
What Is A Yeast Infection?
Yeast growth in the skin, ears, and mucocutaneous areas (the bridge of the nose, periocular (eye) region, genitals or anus areas) is a completely natural phenomenon. In a healthy body, a yeast's population will be kept to a low amount and will not interfere with biological processes. Yeast overgrowth in dogs can occur under less than ideal conditions, causing an infection to Fido's skin and other organs.
While there are many different yeast strains, the two that most frequently cause skin problems in dogs is Malessezia pachydermatis and Candida albicans.
Candida albicans in dogs is a naturally occurring microbe on the canine's skin and other parts of the body. When a canine's immune system becomes compromised, this fungus can infect the organ it is located on or near.
The other type of yeast infection is Malassezia pachydermatis. According to Ernest Ward, DVM of the VCA Animal Hospital, Malassezia pachydermatis can lead to yeast dermatitis, or Malassezia dermatitis.
When these two ever-present yeasts strike a weakened immune system, it is commonly known as a yeast infection.
Yeast infections are a major cause of canine skin infection and can present themselves in more than one way. There are 3 different types:
- Superficial is the most common and causes inflammation of the skin, respiratory and GI tracts, and other tissue linings.
- Systemic is generally categorized by its invasive nature. This type of yeast infection can cause lesions of vital organs, such as the spleen, kidneys, heart, lungs, and even brain.
- A locally invasive strain can cause intestinal, respiratory, or GI ulcers in your dog.
Identifying A Yeast Infection
You may be wondering, "Does my dog have a yeast infection or are they just allergies?"
While the symptoms of a canine fungal infection and canine allergies are very similar, there are differences. Yeast infection symptoms in dogs to closely monitor are:
- Brownish red coloring around the genitals.
- Red skin
- Dog itching skin
- Stale odor comparable to moldy bread or corn chips
- Rough and thickened skin
- Skin flaking
- Skin crusting
- Chronic head shaking
- Recurring ear infection
- Chewing on paws
Yeast Infections and Probiotics
Do probiotics help with yeast infections in dogs? A growing amount of peer-reviewed research has begun to yield answers on how beneficial probiotics can be for both humans and companion animals.
With tissues such as the skin being a major area prone to canine yeast infections, probiotics are a fantastic source of good bacteria and supply nutritional support for a healthy coat.
While there is no probiotic miracle, human-grade probiotics for dogs aid in maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal tract, and providing your dog's body with the proper amount of good bacteria. When a dog's gut is functioning properly, its immune function prevents bad bacteria and fungal growth from getting out of control.
If your dog has dealt with any kind of excessive shedding from the fungal outbreak, it is important to remember that probiotic powder for dogs help achieve a soft, silky, shiny and healthy coat.
A probiotics efficacy can be aided with the use of prebiotics.
Prebiotics are the vehicle for the probiotics, both working together but have different health benefits.
Prebiotics are non-digestible fiber compounds (not bacteria) that nourish the current good bacteria in the body and also act as a carrier to the probiotics, enabling them to move through the upper part of the GI tract. Prebiotics, such as FOS (Fructooligosaccharides) and Inulin keep the probiotics alive through the stomach and plant them in the upper and lower intestines.
If your dog is dealing with a chronic yeast infection, be sure to set up an appointment with your veterinarian. In some cases the best treatment for yeast infections are veterinary prescribed anti-fungal medication.
Antibiotics and Yeast Infections / Gut Health Inhibitors
On the other side of the probiotic spectrum is the use of antibiotics in dogs. While antibiotics can treat severe bacterial infections, they often leave your dog's gut in disarray. Knowing how to prevent yeast infection while taking antibiotics can be tough. A gut negatively affected by antibiotic use is ripe for yeast growth. Do your best to only use antibiotics when your veterinarian deems it absolutely necessary and replace the lost good bacteria with an NASC approved daily probiotic.
Like antibiotics, certain toxins are sometimes used to ward off certain illnesses. These toxins, such as drugs, chemicals, or flea medicines can inhibit the functionality of the immune system and digestion. Think long and hard before subjecting your dog to these harmful chemicals.
Fighting Yeast Infections With A Healthy Diet
Like probiotics, yeasts are microorganisms that need certain conditions to live and reproduce. If your dog suffers from chronic yeast infections, it is worth looking into the diet that he is being fed.
Yeasts thrive in a sugar-rich environment. The more sugar that is in your dog's system, the faster the fungi's growth will be.
You can limit how much sugar is available for yeasts by controlling what is in your dog's diet. Much of the sugar your dog produces comes from the starch or carbohydrate he eats. The body will break down the starches in oats, rice, potatoes, corn, and barley into simple sugars.
Adjusting his grain intake is a great way to limit the fuel the fungus has to survive. Raw food diets are in line with the 'anti yeast diet for dogs' philosophy. They have become a popular way to avoid certain unhealthy grains while ensuring that your dog's diet is more in line with what his ancestors ate in the wild.
Dr. Karen Becker of Mercola points out that there are many foods with antifungal properties that could be added to your dog's diet to help reduce the influx of yeast.
"I also recommend adding a few natural, antifungal foods to the diet, for example, small amounts of..., thyme, parsley, and oregano to help reduce the level of yeast naturally. Adding fermented veggies, if your dog will eat them, can also be very beneficial. Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and coconut oil have natural antifungal properties and can be added directly to your dog's meals."
Aiding The Fight Against Yeast Infections With Topical Measures
Apple cider vinegar has many applications and is used by a great number of holistic animal specialists.
Dogs Naturally Magazine views apple cider vinegar as a natural antifungal and has produced an apple cider vinegar based body rinse for your dog that is meant to soothe itchy skin, restore a healthy skin pH, as well as calm welts and rashes. An excerpt of the recipe can be found below:
Mix the following ingredients together in an aroma-safe bottle/jar with cap and shake well before use:
- Apple Cider Vinegar: 1/2 cup
- Brewed Green Tea (cooled): 1/2 cup
- Distilled Water: 1 cup
After bathing, apply this warm water/apple cider vinegar rinse to your animal friend’s coat/skin and massage in. Rinse well and pat dry, or allow the apple cider vinegar mix to air dry for the added benefit of bug relief.
This blended mixture can also be pre-made and kept in a glass jar in the refrigerator (for approximately one or two weeks – discard if moldy), and used for spot treatments for bug bites and stings.
Besides apple cider vinegar, anti-fungal dog shampoo for yeast can soothe the affected skin and aid in balancing the yeast count.
There are many ways to put your pup in a better position to deal with a yeast infection. Chief among them are ensuring your dog's immune system is functioning at full capacity. With a canine's gut making up about 70% of his immune system, finding ways to maintain your dog's gut health is paramount. Probiotics and prebiotics are a great way to promote gut health and microflora balance.
If your dog has exhibited the tell tale signs of a yeast infection, do what you can to bolster his gut and have him checked out by your local vet.